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This month we look at a very interesting and “new” type of alternative treatment (although it has been around since 1981) to help find release from our everyday stressors – although I was brought to it by severe back pain.
Although I normally try all and any therapies, I never got to try this one out, but when my sister Susan Taljaard was permanently leaving for New Zealand she nagged me and made me promise to see a Body Stress Release (BSR) therapist – as I had increasing and debilitating back pains – mostly brought on by acute stress.
With this in mind, and my promise I duly went in search and found the most wonderful therapist, and after a couple of treatments can attest to some wonderful results.
It may not work equally for everybody, but it is a very interesting alternative therapy to take note of.
We hope you enjoy this month’s newsletter – and remember, we like to receive feedback from our readers.
Michael A Meyer
for Sallamander Concepts (Pty) Ltd
Stress is an ever-present factor in the lives of most people today. In Europe the economic cost of work-related stress has been estimated at twenty billion Euros each year.
In addition to finding their jobs stressful many people experience mental and emotional stresses in their personal lives. For some the physical nature of their work or even of the sports they play, can lead to high levels of stress.
And the types of stress encountered may be considered in three categories: mechanical, mental/emotional and chemical stress.
In the information age, desktop computers and laptops are ubiquitous. Most office workers spend many hours a day at their computers.
While computers have boosted productivity in many fields there has been a human cost. The human body is not adapted to such a sedentary existence.
Many people are inclined to lean forward in front of their computer screens as they get absorbed in what they are dong. This collapses the natural lordotic curve of the lower back and if repeated over a long enough period can lead to accumulation of tension in the back, which if left uncorrected results in stress overload, pain and discomfort.
Many people end up experiencing lower back pain, neck tensions and headaches as a consequence. Other examples of mechanical stress include the shocks and jolts of severe falls, sporting injuries and motor accidents, including whiplash injuries.
The fast pace of life today and high expectations placed on many people, not only in their work situations but also in their personal relationships and family situations, can place mental and emotional demands on them that exceed their natural ability to cope.
Under such psychological pressure some people are unable to maintain emotional equanimity and the strain may result in an unconscious defensive 'armoring' of muscles - hunching the shoulders and tightening the neck.
Certain people are chemically sensitive and may have an adverse reaction to substances that are consumed (e.g. food additives, insecticides on fruit), or inhaled (air pollutants, solvents, paints, etc) or absorbed through the skin (such as cosmetics and cleaning products).
The typical sign of chemical stress is intense tightening of muscles at the base of the skull, often causing a severe headache, possibly the migraine type with shooting pain in the face, along with dizziness and nausea.
A certain amount of stress may be beneficial if it stimulates one to an optimal level of functioning and our bodies are designed to deal with a degree of stress, whether mechanical, mental/emotional or chemical.
Muscles may tighten in a protective way, causing temporary stiffness or aches, then they relax back to normal tone.
However, if the stress factor is severe enough, repeated or prolonged, the point of stress overload is reached, and the tension becomes stored in physical structures.
This may manifest as pain, stiffness, numbness or postural distortions. In addition, the pressure on nerves causes a disturbance of the body's communication system, thereby undermining function, and reducing its natural ability to heal and maintain itself. As a result, the person's state of health will progressively decline.
This health care technique focuses on locating and releasing the areas of stored tension, in order to assist the body in restoring the efficiency of the nervous system, and therefore its normal functioning.
BSR was developed and researched in South Africa by Drs Ewald and Gail Meggersee, and has been practiced here since 1981. In working with the body as a biofeedback mechanism they discovered that it stores stress in an organized way.
Since a fall at the age of five, Ewald suffered from debilitating lower back pain, calf cramps and 'collapsing' knees. In his early thirties he began having bouts of temporary paralysis from the waist down. Gail applied their findings to his situation and after many months the years of locked-in pressure was fully released, and he was completely restored to health.
The Meggersees (Ewald has a B.Sc. and a chiropractic degree, and Gail has a B.A. degree, a teaching diploma and a chiropractic degree) train BSR practitioners at their academy on the Garden Route in the Western Province in South Africa.
After the practitioner has taken a case history, the client lies face down, fully clothed, on the BSR couch. A series of gentle pressure tests is carried out, and the practitioner observes the muscular responses. These indicate the precise sites of stored stress, and also the exact directions of the lines of tension.
Light but definite pressure is then applied on these areas, in the correct directions, to enable the body to release the locked-in stress. It may also be necessary to carry out certain checks and releases while the client is lying on the back.
The procedures are gentle as it is not necessary to force the body to respond. The process takes about twenty minutes.
There may be a dramatic response, with immediate straightening of posture and withdrawal of pain. More usually, this occurs over a period of several sessions.
The client is scheduled for three appointments with a few days between, to allow the body to adapt to the changes that are occurring. If the body stress has been present for years, it may take further sessions in order for deeper layers of muscles to release the stored tension.
Certain clients may temporarily experience an increase in sensitivity, as pressure is released from nerves and sensation is restored. This signals return of communication and that the healing process is underway.
BSR clients report a wide range of beneficial effects, besides pain relief and improved mobility.
Some examples of conditions that cleared up or improved dramatically:
Clients often feel calmer, more positive, and clearer in their thinking.
This does not imply that BSR is a diagnosis or treatment of any disease, illness, deficiency or medical condition, as that is the realm of medicine. The focus of BSR is on wellness, not on illness. The practice of BSR is focused on the location and release of body stress.
The improvements in health which occur happen because the technique assists the body to restore the efficiency of its communication system, so that the body can proceed with its natural function of self-healing.
BSR is a complementary, non-therapeutic health technique, and not an alternative to medicine. Thus it works in cooperation with medical doctors and other health professionals, with mutual referrals of clients taking place.
The BSR practitioner advises the client on ways to help the process of releasing the years of stored tension, and to avoid the recurrence of body stress as far as possible.
Posture is extremely important, and the natural curve of the lower back should always be maintained. Bend using the knees, rather than from the waist, and avoid twisting movements, especially when lifting.
When seated, the hips should be level with or slightly higher than the knees - avoid couches or chairs which reverse this. Do not half-lie slumped with the normal hollow of the lower spine rounded out, as this builds up abnormal pressure on the discs between the vertebrae.
Sit up straight with a cushion supporting the hollow of the back. Do not put your feet up while sitting, as this automatically flattens the curve and stresses the spine.
When reading, try to hold or prop up the book at eye level, rather than stressing the neck by keeping it bent forward.
The practitioner teaches clients simple exercises to strengthen the back and abdominal muscles and self-help procedures to minimize the build-up of neck stress from daily activities.
Life is stressful, and it is impossible to avoid being subjected to stress in its various forms in our everyday lives, therefore it is advisable to have a BSR session from time to time.
This varies with individuals - for one person, once a month may be preferable, for another, every three months or less. In this way the accumulating body stress can be dealt with before it locks deeply into physical structures and undermines the body's functioning.
If stress overload should occur suddenly, as in the case of a fall, a car accident, or severe chemical exposure, etc., it is best to have it dealt with as soon as possible.
Body Stress Release can benefit most people in dealing with the many stresses in their lives, helping them to give of their best in their work situations, personal lives and sporting and recreational activities. By stimulating the body’s ability to self-heal, BSR facilitates a higher level of functioning.
Besides South Africa, there are BSR practitioners in England, Scotland, Holland, Iceland, New Zealand, Canada, Belgium, Germany, Australia, Ireland, Namibia, Sweden and the USA.
For further information or to locate a practitioner near you consult the websites below:
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